New Media Search Tool Helps Federal Comms Professionals Better Serve the Public, Their Agencies

By Dirk Fillpot, Communications Coordinator, U.S. Department of Agriculture


Are you are frustrated that the media search tools available to us make it nearly impossible, and certainly impractical, to implement hyper local media about our vital government programs? The information we need to communicate is critical to protecting public safety and health. It greatly pleases me to inform you about a new GIS-based media tool that is now available to federal government communications employees that is designed to fills the gaps of existing systems and eliminates these challenges.  And, getting connected to this system requires little effort and even less of a budget – it’s free!

This new GIS-based media system allows us to identify media outlets in an entirely new way.

When we use existing systems, we have to search for media outlets by the cities and states where they’re located.  Using this new system, we simply can select an area on an online map that we need to reach, and the system automatically identifies which media outlets offer news to people in that area and generates a media distribution list so we can send information to the outlets where people in that area would receive their news.

Using this new system, users can develop media distribution lists for outlets that serve any geographic area of any shape or size, down to one-tenth of a mile.

Let’s say you need to send information to people who live in an area in the path of a hurricane. Using existing systems, you would need to look on a map to find all the cities in the affected area and then search for media in each of those cities to develop a distribution list for media that serve that population.

To conduct a search in this new system, you simply trace the hurricane forecast cone, and after clicking on the media search, the system automatically and within seconds generates a media distribution list (a CSV worksheet) for the outlets that serve that entire area.

First image shows rainfall, second image shows capturing a specific area to pull data from.


Sample of the report produced.

The system also allows you to apply buffers to searches.  If a fugitive was recently sighted in a specific location and you want to alert people living within 100 miles of where the fugitive was sighted, you simply drop a point on the map where they were sighted and add a 100-mile buffer to that point, and the system generates a distribution list for all media outlets where people living within that area would receive their news.

There are a variety of potential uses for this new GIS-based media system

There are multiple levels of potential uses for this system in providing information during disasters and public health emergencies, including distributing information to areas where infectious diseases are emerging to help tell the public about how to avoid contracting or spreading disease; distributing information to those living within a certain distance of a contamination or hazmat incident; and providing safety tips to areas affected by extreme weather.

The system also can be tailored to each federal agency or to to individual users

The new tool system can be tailored to each federal agency, even to individual users, by allowing for media searches against map layers each agency generates. This capability allows for a range of hyper local media outreach strategies outside of disaster and public health emergencies to be developed and implemented. For example, users can select a portion of a specific highway slated for improvements and provide news to those in the area about anticipated travel impacts; or highlight benefits of solar or wind energy in areas of the country where sunlight or strong winds are prevalent for most of the year, or promote the availability of government programs that can help businesses or families rebuild following natural disasters.

As this system allows us to identify audiences we need to reach in new ways, it also opens the door to new media strategies that we can use to get the right information to the right audiences at the right time, and that will help us better serve the public.

Get the new GIS-based media system now! 

This tool took years to develop by a group of dedicated federal communications professionals from multiple federal departments – including some members of the Federal Communicators Network. It is shared with a range of federal and state agencies. The more users the system has, the more comprehensive and accurate the media database will become, better ensuring our ability to get vital information to the public when they most need it.

If you believe that your agency could benefit from using this new media system, please email me at, and I can provide you more information or arrange a demo.